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3 Types of editing: which do you need?

So, you’ve written your heart out and have a compelling essay, gripping short story, delicious recipe (with or without accompanying memoir), or dazzling web content to share with the world. Naturally, you want your words to shine and land with readers as you’d intended, without pesky details like spelling, punctuation, voice, grammar, orphans, or widow[er]s getting in the way. This is where the editorial process comes in—a process with discrete stages that collectively offer your writing a line of defence from the abyss where extinct words and messages spend the end of days.

For each stage of the editorial process, there’s a different editor, or more often, the one editor wearing different hats at different times. At WordOSaurus, we get it, knowing who’s who in the editing zoo can get a little confusing, what with terms used interchangeably by the uninitiated, multiple names for the same service, and an overlap in the scope of different services.

Armed with this simple guide, you’ll be well on your way to selecting the service you need to get your words out into the world and far, far away from that abyss we will speak no more of.

What is editing?

Editing is a process of improving the written word. In addition to typical elements like grammar and spelling, improvements can include edits for readability, page formatting, conformance with preferred style, consistent voice, and factual accuracy.

The editorial process consists broadly of three stages: substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading. The type of editing you will need depends on the stage of your written content, the degree of editing already carried out, and the level of service you’re after, with the most comprehensive editing involving each stage in the process, sometimes multiple times.

What is substantive editing?

A substantive edit is concerned with the ‘big picture’ elements that can make or break a written work’s suitability for the intended purpose or target audience, with a focus on elements such as structure, author’s voice, language, and content. A substantive edit is sometimes also referred to as a structural edit and is usually carried out first.

What is copyediting?

The focus of a copyedit is to achieve coherence, clarity, accuracy and consistency in a written work. It is a word and sentence level assessment of spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalisation, typos (literals), and word use, among other things. A copyeditor is sometimes also referred to as a line editor. Typically, a copyedit follows a substantive edit, although it may be the starting point, and at times, the substantive edit and copyedit stages are combined, with the one editor performing both stages concurrently.

What is proofreading?

Proofreading is the final step, following a copyedit, before publication—a check of what may have slipped through the cracks of the otherwise infallible copyeditor. A proofreader looks at the minutiae such as page numbers, captions on images, tables of content, consistency in heading hierarchy, units of measure used in a recipe etc. This stage can make all the difference to brand, reputation, and reader or consumer trust.

For a summary of typical inclusions at the different stages of the editorial process, download your free editorial process checklist.

Whatever stage your writing is at, there is an editorial service to suit. Get in touch today and let WordOSaurus save your copy from extinction, one word at a time.

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